Monday, February 27, 2012

A Useful and Educationational Sacrifice

Today these words from the first reading struck me: 

You shall not go about spreading slander among your kin;
nor shall you stand by idly when your neighbor's life is at stake.
I am the LORD.

"You shall not bear hatred for your brother in your heart.
Though you may have to reprove him,
do not incur sin because of him.
Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
I am the LORD."

Leviticus 19: 16-18
Have you ever noticed how just when you need it most, God sends you a little reminder, a little peck on the shoulder, a whisper in the ear? 

As a family, we gave up criticism for Lent.  It was a last minute, off-the-cuff addition to my own Lenten plans and it took a bit of enrolling to bring the big people aboard.

It is harder than you would think!  The four oldest of our clan have a tendency to be a bit mocking. Not of each other, necessarily, but of strangers, people in news stories, or  even ideas.  Oh, that makes us sound terrible, doesn't it?

It is terrible, in a way.  It sneaks in, that judgment, as a little bit of wit meant to amuse another, and it slowly corrodes, like a sprinkle of salt in the silver box, unnoticed and unchecked. It's like some of the critters who make their way into my garage in the night; they slip in under the door, make their mischief, then depart undetected but leave behind an abiding, unmistakable and intolerable stench. 

I suggested the sacrifice because I know my "inner judge" is all too ready and willing to render an unbidden verdict.  I am appalled by how many times I have to check my tongue and how often my mind flies to critique as if my own faults are negligible or non-existent. How untrue that last is and how alluring, the terrible temptation to use criticism as a foil for my own flaws.

I am not suggesting (as my girls originally feared) that we never poke fun at one another or that we become overly protective of ourselves, quite the opposite.  Instead we have committed to take responsibility for noticing that critical bent in ourselves, examining our motives and then seeing if clear feedback -- absent the judgement -- might be offered instead.  It's quite different, isn't it, from Thumper's mother's terse but pointed advice, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all?"  Our goal is to be alongside each other on the way, shoulder to shoulder, without taking on the role of judge and jury.

I am so grateful for my daughters and my dear hubby who have agreed to travel this road with me for Lent.  It may prove to be my most educational and useful sacrifice yet!

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